Traveling: Singapore Days 1 & 2

From March 28-31 I took a trip by myself to Singapore for leisure and sightseeing.  Most of my Japanese gal pals couldn’t believe I was going alone, but honestly I was looking forward to a few days where I only had myself to look after.  To keep things on the cheaper side, I took a low cost flight over on Air Asia and booked a room in a condo owned by a lovely French couple on AirBnB.

From what I’d heard on Trip Advisor and on various other travel boards on the topic, 4 days and some were more than enough time to experience Singapore.  Oh, how wrong these people were!  Singapore has as ton of things to do if you only take the time to search them out, and by no means was my time there enough to do it all.  Although there were some checks I missed on my to-do list and some less than stellar moments, I really enjoyed my time there.  The only caveat?  The heat was intense!  It was like being in the Japanese mid-summer heat and humidity 24/7.  I sweated outside, I sweated at night in the condo, I probably even sweated in the shower.  Singapore is stuck in an eternal blistering summer 365 days a year.   So be sure to keep that in mind as you read along.  ;)

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A Fleeting Look at the Cherry Blossoms

It’s that time of year where winter’s chill is carried away by large gusts of spring breeze, leaving the cherry trees free to blossom in its wake.  As the season usually coincides with school and company entrance celebrations, you’ll find many Japanese camping out under the cherry blossoms with beer and picnic lunches in tow.  This custom, called hanami, literally means flower viewing but nowadays you’ll find the blossoms serve more as a nice backdrop for boozing and chatting than the actual focal point of the outing they once were traditionally.

Because I took a trip to Singapore right as the blossom petals were first opening, and then went to the Kanamara Matsuri (NSFW) the following weekend instead of joining in on any parties when the cherry trees were blooming at their fullest, I’m sorry to say I don’t have a lot to report about this year’s hanami.  Still, I was fortunate to spend a small amount of time surrounded by their beauty and snap a few pictures .  And hey, who doesn’t love seeing cherry blossom photos?

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The Kanamara Matsuri (NSFW)

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

The Kanamara Matsuri, or what you may have heard foreigners reference as “The Penis Festival”, is a Shinto-based festival celebrating… you guessed it: the penis.  The festival is observed every first Sunday in April, with this year’s date falling on April 6, 2014.

Traditionally, the festival is based on the folk lore tale of a woman with a demon living in her hoo-ha that bit off the manhood of her husband on their consummation night.  After re-marrying and her second husband also being castrated in the same manner, she engaged a local blacksmith to forge a steel phallus in order to trick the demon into biting the fake penis instead, thus breaking his teeth upon it.  The steel phallus then came into the possession of the Wakamiya Hachimangu Shrine, located near Kawasaki Daishi station on the Kawasaki Daishi line, a Shinto shrine that celebrates the god of sexual organs and reproductive health.  In the past, the shrine was well visited among sex trade workers praying against disease, but today is revered by the LGTB community and couples praying for a child, as one of the last remaining fertility shrines in Japan.

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Traveling: Haneda Airport & Air Asia

© J // Washing Rice Blog

© J // Washing Rice Blog

Last post I mentioned I caught a good deal on a flight to Singapore from Air Asia.  I’d considered flying with them last year when a friend and I took a trip to Bali together, but with the extra baggage fee cost in the end we decided to pay a little more for service and comfort, and booked with Malaysia Airlines instead. (Relax, this was way before they got a bad rap for losing an airplane.)

This time around I took Air Asia up on their offer.  It was my first time booking with them and flying out from Haneda Airport, so I didn’t exactly know what I was getting myself into.  Reading other Air Asia reviews beforehand, going in my expectations were pretty low.  To my surprise, although I didn’t care much for Haneda Airport, Air Asia’s service far exceeded my expectations and even rivaled or surpassed other airlines I’ve paid “normal” fare for.

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Getting Ready to Travel!

© LINE Corporation

© LINE Corporation

It’s the end of the school and fiscal year in the Japan, but if your social calendar is anything like mine, it’s not a time for rest! On the Japanese side of things there’s graduations, new students, and new hires to celebrate.  On the expat side, old friends will be leaving to return home or move on elsewhere and new expats will be moving over in their place, with a string of sayonara parties to pay your respects at and parties to welcome the newcomers.  If you’re staying put in Japan, chances are like most Japanese you’ll be traveling somewhere.

No matter if you’re just arriving, staying put, or leaving, I’d like to share with you some good tips that I hope you’ll find useful during your next travel.

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Finding What Fits

Okay ya’ll.  I’m about leave for Singapore in a week and I wanted a few additions to my spring/summer wardrobe because it’s supposed to be in the 30s (high 80s – low 90s for you Stateside peeps), compared to the weather here that’s just barely starting to resemble something like spring.

But confession?  It’s really hard for me to find good clothes in Japan.  Most women’s clothing stores have a one size fits all thing going on, or if they separate into sizes there’s usually only two to choose from- M (fits like a Juniors XS-S) or L (fits more like a Juniors M).   Sometimes these sizes are labelled 38 or 40, which correspond to S or M in European sizing.  If you’re a non-Asian female expat or have body type bigger than this, you might be facing the same challenge.

So what to do?  Well, you have two options: go domestic or go home

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Owning a Pet in Japan: Where to Buy Premium Food

Dog & Cat Food Brand Collage

Maybe they exist in Tokyo or bigger cities, but in my area and most rural areas there’s a dire lack of pet stores.  Most pets and pet supplies are sold at home or DIY centers, and while they carry a wide range of domestic brands, most don’t sell premium dog and cat food I could find at Petco or Petsmart back in the U.S.  The only “premium food” sold around town is Royal Canin, which is really only premium in price, and not ingredients-wise.

With dogs, you might find it at little easier since the market still caters heavily to them.  But after we first got our cats, I was stuck feeding them generic stuff that was high in grains (not good for their health :( ) until I could hunt down some of the better brands high in meat or protein content.  So, I thought I’d pass on the list of stores I’ve come across that import or sell premium wet and dry food.

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